by Derek O'Neill
Do you remember where you were when you had your first cigarette? Even if you can’t recall, think about that time in your life. What was going on? Chances are that when you began your habit, those cigarettes created a figurative smoke screen, hiding something you didn’t want to face. When smoking begins at a young age, it’s often a lack of confidence or need to connect your identity to your peer group. Though it may have been an unsurprising result of wanting to feel mature, the habit then took on more psychological and physical elements.
Over time, smoking becomes connected to relaxation, the irony being that nicotine is actually a stimulant. It’s the deep breath that you take when you smoke that confuses and solidifies the message your mind gives you. People continue to smoke because they become programmed that it is a relaxing thing to do! What other needs are seemingly being met by smoking? If you want to quit, you have to break it down and unravel the truth of what it is standing in for. What would true relaxation, not tied to a substance that is causing you harm, feel like? Where can you find that in your life?
Chances are that there’s some aspect of life that you approach with a cycle of persistent, learned behavior that might be causing you, and maybe the people around you, problems. Anything that is out of control, whether it be smoking, toxic relationships, unhealthy emotions, too much or too little sleep, or working too much, can all create imbalance and distraction within your life. The effect on us might be subtle, or debilitating, but any addiction gone unchecked can have a negative impact.
The closer you get to the truth and the underlying reasons that you depend on something, the more likely it is that you’ll be able to stop the addiction. It’s extremely important to identify where your addiction is stemming from. There could be factors in your life that keep an addiction going, or people or situations that enable you. Even advertising can encourage a habit, with taglines like “Once you pop, you can’t stop!” It’s easy to see overconsumption of something as “going with the flow,” or perhaps conforming to what’s seen as normal and expected within your social circle. As they say in 12-step programs, you have to first admit that you have a problem before you can see a way out of it. Recognizing the power that a substance, habit or pattern has over you is when you’ll begin to find the ability to break an addiction and move forward. You have to replace that power with your own inherent strength.